The Kingdom of Love

The Parables, Thoughts
As you recall from our last post, Peter begins the dialogue in Matthew 18:21-35 with a question regarding how many times he is required to forgive his brother in the new kingdom, suggesting seven times would be quite generous.  Jesus answers that seventy times seven would be more appropriate basically saying there is no limit.  Jesus then launches into another, “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to…” parable and describes the scene. A certain servant owed the king the equivalent of 150,000 years of wages.  The servant in question requested patience from the king and more time to repay.  The servant was essentially asking for some way to refinance the debt.  But the king, moved with compassion, set any idea of refinancing aside and, at what we…
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Seventy Times Seven

The Parables, Thoughts
Another kingdom parable involving debtors (Mt 18:21-35) begins with an interesting exchange between Peter and Jesus.  Peter and the disciples have been observing Jesus' interaction with the Pharisees regarding His "acceptance" of sinners.  They have been listening to His teaching about what life is like among the citizens of His kingdom.  They are also learning about a new commandment, "Love one another." (Jn 13:34).  This is all very foreign to their Old Testament trained ears. The Old Testament they grew up with did not carry the aura of love, acceptance, and forgiveness that Jesus taught.  They lived under the idea, clearly expounded in the Old Testament, that obedience to God's laws brought blessing while disobedience brought a curse.  They believed God would reward the righteous and strike down sinners; not accept…
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The Two Debtors

The Parables, Thoughts
Jesus continues the theme of good news to the needy in the story of the two debtors.  The context for this parable is Jesus’ invitation to the home of Simon, the Pharisee, for a dinner party.  At the dinner, a woman known to be “immoral” came and anointed the feet of Jesus.  Jesus, aware of what the host and religious guests were thinking told this story, “ ‘A certain moneylender had two debtors:  one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both.  Which of them will therefore love him more?’  Simon, the host, answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’  And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged correctly.’ “ (Lk 7:41-44). Jesus goes on to equate…
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The Lost Son

The Parables, Thoughts
Finally, we come to the last story in Luke 15, commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son, or as I like to think of it, the parable of the lost son.  For again it ends with the theme of the lost discovered.  When the lost son is "found", a party ensues and the father explains the celebration to the older brother with these words, “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.” (Lk 15:32).  Let’s go back to the start of the story.  A wealthy landowner had two sons.  The younger son requested his share of the inheritance from his father so he could set out on his own.  The father…
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Good News for the Lost

The Parables, Thoughts
Remember the context of Jesus’ first coming?  His contemporaries viewed the coming kingdom as a national deliverance from foreign oppression and personal deliverance for the righteous.  Jesus turned that idea on its head and proclaimed deliverance for the needy; the sick, the oppressed, the sinner.  The Jewish leaders expected judgment for the sinners, not redemption.  When Jesus ate with those considered “sinners,” it meant acceptance and recognition in their culture.  This coupled with His announcement that the kingdom had come to “sinners” led to many a protest from the religious leaders.  (See The Parables of Jesus by David Wenham for a longer explanation of the comparison between the self-righteousness of the religious leaders and the self-recognized spiritual poverty of the "sinners.") Jesus’ three parables of the lost things, from Luke…
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Good News for the Needy

The Parables, Thoughts
The gospel writers often described the coming of the kingdom, as proclaimed by Jesus Himself from day one of His ministry, as good news.  "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom..." (Mt 4:23).  To whom is the coming kingdom good news and how do we get in on the good news?  Jesus consistently taught that the coming kingdom was good news to the needy; and the requirement of its citizens to acknowledge their need.  Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit (i.e. those who recognize their spiritual poverty), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5:3).  Good news for the needy is a recurring theme in Jesus' explanation of the kingdom of heaven. "And He also told this parable to…
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The Mustard Seed and the Mustard Tree

The Parables, Thoughts
Another kingdom parable is the story of the mustard seed.  Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Mt 13:31-32).  Again this illustration may have been designed by Jesus to assure those who had trouble reconciling the tiny beginnings of God’s kingdom ushered in by Christ (a mustard seed is about a millimeter in diameter) with the powerful and explosive revolution they were expecting from their Messiah.  But as it turns out this parable is actually a prophecy that we see…
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The Automatic Kingdom

The Parables, Thoughts
Another parable that cues us in to the nature and workings of the kingdom of God is found in Mark 4:26-29 and again begins with, “The kingdom of God is like…”  In this case the kingdom is like “a man who casts seed upon the ground; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows – how, he himself does not know.  The earth produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.  But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” This parable gives rise to our idea of the kingdom of God being a secret kingdom.  To His first century hearers, it must have…
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The Wheat and the Weeds

The Parables, Thoughts
Like so many of Jesus’ parables, the story of the wheat and the weeds (Mt 13:24-30) begins with “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  What is coming next is a word picture describing some aspect of the kingdom of God.  In this parable, the farmer planted good seed, the wheat, in his field.  At night, his enemy came and sowed weeds.  At first no one realized the sabotage.  But as the wheat and the weeds began to grow together, it was obvious something was wrong.  The confused workers quizzed the farmer, “Did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have weeds?” (Mt 13:27).  The farmer recognizes this as the work of an enemy.  The workers respond with a willingness to immediately yank out the weeds.  But…
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